Self-Publishing: Black Mark or Gold Star?

Hello, LDSPublisher!

Hope your holiday was great! [It was, thank you.] I have another question for you.

I’ve heard conflicting opinions of self-publishing. When I first began seriously considering publishing a novel, I was advised that self publishing was tatamount to professional suicide. And yet, I’ve also heard of several authors who have made a real go of the do-it-yourself route.

What do you think? As a publisher, is a self-published work on a resume a black mark? Or a gold star? Or something in between? Would you be more apt to publish someone who had a self published book, supposing it sold moderately well, or would you be more inclined to avoid them? What about publishers outside the LDS market – is there a difference of opinion there?

I guess the real gist of the question is: Is this a road that I might look into, or would I be better off staying on the main publishing highway, so to speak?


Here’s the thing with self-publishing. If you know what you’re doing, or you have good advisors, you can be successful at it. If not, it can be a financial disaster. The majority of self-publishers fall into the disaster category. That is why self-publishing has such a bad reputation.

There is also the bias that if it was any good, a “real” publisher would have picked it up. That’s not necessarily the case, but people still believe it.

Self-publishing does not have to be professional suicide or a black mark on your career, but it’s not an automatic gold star either. It depends on the quality of the finished product, how many and how fast you sold them, and the method you used to sell them (ex: bookstores, personal appearances, online marketing, etc.).

For self-publishing to count with me, it would need to be professionally created so that I could not tell by looking that it was s.p. — and I am picky. I’d expect to be able to find something about the book by googling the title. I would need verified sales of over 2,000 in the first year. Outside the LDS market, sales would need to be higher.

This is definitely a road you might want to look into, but you need to be very, very careful. The first step is to find a distributor. Do this before you print anything. If they like your manuscript/idea, they should be willing to help you find professional editors, typesetters, printers, etc. Not all distributors will help you like this, but many of the smaller ones will.

I also recommend a couple of books by Tom and Marilyn Ross, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and Jump Start Your Book Sales. Those two are my favorites. Dan Poynter also has some books on self-publishing, but he’s sometimes a little unrealistic about how easy it is to do it yourself and how much money you can make from it.

If you’re writing for the masses, avoid POD because that usually prices you out of the market. If you have highly specialized info, you can sometimes get away with the PODs. Also, be prepared to do a LOT of marketing. Another book I like is Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Levinson, Larsen and Frishman. They have some good ideas and they try to keep it within a budget.

I know that these are superficial answers. This is a huge subject that can be debated from lots of different angles. There are pros and cons to both traditional and self-publishing. It all depends on what you goals are and the size of financial risk you’re able to take. If you have more specific questions, I’m happy to answer them.

Author: LDS Publisher

I am an anonymous blogger who works in the LDS publishing industry. I blog about topics that help authors seeking publication and about published fiction by LDS authors.

2 thoughts on “Self-Publishing: Black Mark or Gold Star?”

  1. Just be careful you actually SELF-publish, not use a subsidy (or vanity) publisher (they sometimes call themselves self-publishing companies). Being associated with a subsidy publisher is a black mark in most peple’s books, especially bookstores.

    POD printing can be okay for some books, such as family histories or poetry books, where the author plans to give/sell them to a limited audience like family and friends. If the audience is bigger than that, using POD can still be done successfully but the self-publisher has to be aware of all the other costs and what the correct price-point is for their book. As they say in the industry, “run the numbers” and educate yourself before you spend your money.

  2. I don’t think Subsidy is any worse than self-publishing, but Marny’s right–paying for any part of your book’s publication works against you in the minds of many people. I recently talked to an independant bookstore–usually the best option for self-published works–that said they are slowly pulling back on self-published titles because they could use the same space for books that are getting promoted, advertised and have a publisher behind them.

    ALso, I loved Guerilla Marketing and Jump Start Your Book Sales–whether you self-publish or not, these are excellent resources. Great blog, LDSpublisher. Keep it up!

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